The Toronto Community Monitoring Program is a new Swim Drink Fish Canada initiative. The program builds on our previous Toronto harbour monitoring in 2016 and 2017, which established a robust citizen-science monitoring hub, equipped with an in-house lab. Last summer (2017) Waterkeeper staff and 100 volunteers gathered weekly on the waterfront to collect water samples and record observations about water quality in Toronto’s inner harbour. Our monitoring activities in the Toronto Harbour form the basis of the Toronto Community Monitoring Program.
The Toronto Community Monitoring Program aims to engage underserved Toronto neighbourhoods in water quality monitoring, data-sharing and stewardship. The goal of the program is to engage the community to monitor locations in the city where there is no recreational water quality data, there is vulnerability to contamination and Torontonians connect with Lake Ontario.
Toronto and Region is one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern. According to City of Toronto data, 309 distinct combined sewer overflow locations exist throughout Toronto. These overflows make their way into the environment through one of 84 total outfalls that might potentially contain combined sewage and stormwater. Sewage and polluted stormwater runoff put recreational water users at risk of illness and infection.
During the summer and fall of 2018, the monitoring program will return to sample the popular yet vulnerable recreational water sites in Toronto's inner harbour. These sites are used daily by recreational water users, such as paddlers, sailers and boaters. Swim Guide staff along with a team of well-trained volunteers will monitor recreational water quality in Lake Ontario twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The monitoring program is also joining with other local community groups interested in monitoring the water they connect with. The external monitoring teams will contribute even more data about Lake Ontario. The water samples collected by these teams are analysed in the in-house Swim Drink Fish IDEXX lab, and the results shared on the Swim Guide app.
Long-term goal for the program
The long-term the goal of this program is creating a model monitoring program which any community can adopt. The initiative aims to help communities by setting up citizen-science monitoring hubs equipped with their own in-house labs. These hubs would be in underserved locations where no recreational water monitoring exists and where local waters might be polluted.
Citizen scientists contribute to water quality monitoring programs around the world. It is common to see water quality monitoring programs run by citizen scientists because of their personal connections to their local water bodies. Providing the ability for citizens and communities to monitor the water quality in their own areas acknowledges the concerns people have for the waters. It can also be a great motivator for increased conservation and restoration in the area. Right now in both Canada and the US major gaps in recreational water monitoring exists, even where people love to swim and interact with the water.
The Toronto Community Monitoring Program wants to become a leading example of how with a combination of citizen-science and community involvement, people across Ontario are better able to protect and conserve their local lakes, rivers and oceans.
With the help from the Muskoka Brewery & Evergreen Fresh Water Grant Program, this initiative works toward a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future in the Great Lakes region and beyond.
The Fresh Water Grant Program supports Ontario non-profit organizations safeguarding freshwater and addressing water-related issues in both urban and rural areas. It also increases awareness for Ontario's freshwater sources and the concerns they face.
To join the Toronto Community Monitoring Team as we collect water samples from Toronto's inner Harbour visit the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper website. Become a citizen-scientist and help us find out how healthy our recreational waters are!